Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Gary J. Meise

First Page



The consensus indefinite extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1995 and the more recent conclusion of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. which was supported by all five of the world's declared nuclear weapons states, allow for unprecedented optimism by nonproliferation experts regarding nuclear weapons proliferation curtailment and weapons reduction. These recent inroads into the accomplishment of NPT goals raise new questions. however. regarding the underlying commitment level of nuclear powers. China's proliferation record, in particular. is marred with inconsistencies, but its current economic growth and increasingly nonisolationist policies may cause China to reconsider its past noncompliance with the NPT regime and help bring about long-term stability in South and Southeast Asia, culminating in a regional nuclear weapons-free zone.

This Note explores China's past role in nuclear proliferation and its reasons for not acceding to the NPT regime. Despite the ultimate success of the NPT regime to date, the Note discusses inherent weaknesses of the NPT. such as its inadequate enforcement and monitoring provisions, that could allow countries such as China to disregard their NPT obligations in the future and dismantle the NPT regime's effectiveness. Because of such dismantling concerns, the Note addresses recent efforts by the United States to induce engagements by China in nonproliferation diplomacy. Although some U.S. tactics, such as economic sanctions, have achieved limited success, linking trade with nonproliferation policy is criticized as being both a short-term solution that fosters resentment and distrust as well as a solution that frustrates the potential demilitarization that a more developed and integrated market economy may encourage. The Note concludes by offering U.S. policy strategies to assist China in its compliance with the NPT and its potential leadership role under the NPT regime.